A year and half ago we posed the question of whether or not Marvel Studios was going to delve into the cosmic side of the Marvel Universe after The Avengers. Rumors and reports combined with Easter eggs in the films released up until that point in time – along with certain happenings in Marvel Comics – strongly hinted that Guardians of the Galaxy was on the way, and Marvel Studios President of Production Kevin Feige officially confirmed it at Comic-Con in the summer.

But little did we know that Marvel Studios may go cosmic immediately after The Avengers as fans prepare for Iron Man 3 and the beginning of Phase Two of the Marvel cinematic universe.

With Thor: The Dark World releasing this fall and promising to explore more of the nine realms and the culture of the many otherworldly Marvel races, it seemed the obvious choice to serve as a lead-in of sorts to next year’s introduction of the space-faring Guardians of the Galaxy, especially since Iron Man 3 promises to be more “grounded.” But moviegoers may actually get their first introduction, or at least a tease, of the Guardians as early as this May when Robert Downey Jr. suits up once again as billionaire industrialist Tony Stark.

What? Why? How?

Rumors from a few months ago have been rekindled thanks to some choice words by Robert Downey Jr. given in an exclusive interview with EW, and combined with the leak of an Iron Man 3 toy image featuring a Deep Space Suit, speculation and sources of Latino-Review lead us to believe Tony Stark will be going into space in Iron Man 3 to meet Earth’s first line of defense. Not only that, but Stark may appear in Guardians of the Galaxy as well.

Let’s examine the five pieces of evidence.

1. Marvel NOW!

The first and most obvious clue is in the books, with Iron Man joining the Guardians of the Galaxy roster next month. The genius Guardians of the Galaxy relaunch by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning in 2008 (following Annihilation & Annihilation: Conquest) lasted 25 issues before Marvel Comics put an oddly timed end to it in 2010, only to have them show up in Avengers Assemble after The Avengers film hit theaters in the summer. The Guardians of the Galaxy return in February with a new look and some roster changes, highlighted by Tony Stark joining the team for the Marvel NOW! relaunch of the series by Brian Michael Bendis.

Bendis said the following about the new series in a Marvel.com Liveblog Q&A:

“It’s also a great place for you to hop on and see why we’re excited for these characters to be in a movie and why it’s as good a franchise as Marvel has.”

“Iron Man joins the team right from the get go, which is exciting and show that the Guardians are really the cosmic Avengers.”

Why would Tony Stark leave The Avengers and his other Earthly responsibilities to head into space? Bendis explains on Marvel.com.

It’s more about that he’s a futurist, and he’s an explorer, and he’s a scientist, and an adventurer. You could certainty see Tony getting to a place in his mind where number one, he needs a vacation more than anyone on the planet. But number two, more like a working vacation, and thinking, you know what, I kind of hit a ceiling with my technology. I want to go out and explore some new stuff and see things from a new perspective, and really look at the Earth from a new perspective, and come back and see if that doesn’t help him break past whatever ceiling he’s hit with his work.And plus, we’re going to have some fun with Tony trying to live out his William Shatner/Captain Kirk space-girl fantasies. So Tony will come out here to be part of the Guardians, to explore the ideas that the Guardians had put in his head during AVENGERS ASSEMBLE, that the Earth is a very important part of the cosmic civilization for the next generation. So Tony literally needs to go out and look at it from their point of view to see what he can do to help. And so he gets to have space adventures, he gets to live the William Shatner/Captain Kirk, he gets to explore, he gets to invent, and Tony gets to see the world from a different perspective.

When Tony’s with the Avengers, he’s always top dog, alpha male, he’s always kind of in charge. Here, he’s going to be a fish way out of water. Even though he’s been to outer space a few times, this is living in outer space, which is a completely different thing. And basically living on a pirate ship!

Perhaps at the end of The Avengers, Tony Stark got more than a look into deep space, but a look into his future and the endless possibilities his technical prowess could open his life to explore. Such a drastic departure for the Iron Man norm would certainly offer a new and unexplored character journey for Robert Downey Jr. to play with, should he choose to lock in long-term with Marvel Studios.

Continue to page 2 for Robert Downey Jr.’s hint and the Iron Man 3 ‘Deep Space Suit’ toy…

–~~~~~~~~~~~~–

2. Robert Downey Jr.

The next clue came today from part two of a five-part Entertainment Weekly interview with Robert Downey Jr. and is a little more subtle. In addressing the possibility of cameo appearances of Stark’s friends from The Avengers, RDJ answered the question first by explaining that Iron Man 3 needs to acknowledge that this is a post-Avengers world but at the same time find an interesting way to focus on Tony Stark’s personal journey. He followed that up with this:

“But we can’t help it — everywhere you look now in every Marvel movie there are opportunities where certain new pals of his could be useful. So they’re in the atmosphere, so to speak, but I wouldn’t expect to see them on the ground in this one.”

Very choice words in “atmosphere, so to speak” and not seeing “them on the ground.” On its own, it may not be much, but combining with the other evidence and rumors, and knowing RDJ’s tendency to say or tease things he’s not supposed to (see: Avengers premiere), this could be a major hint that he’s referring to Stark’s soon-to-be space friends.

3. The “Deep Space Suit”

Toy manufacturer Funko released some images they weren’t supposed to for their upcoming Iron Man 3 line of tie-in merchandise, including the following image which was suspiciously removed from their site (note: the four other armor designs are all confirmed to be in the film):

[Image removed at the request of Funko]

Now why would Iron Man have a Deep Space Suit, we wonder?

For the normal action figure lines, Iron Man 1 & 2 (and most comic book movie tie-in merchandise) had armor designs and villains not from the actual film, but this isn’t your typical action figure line and seems to be specially designed bobble heads for the actual armor suits from the film.

The armor design depicted in the bobble head pays slight tribute to the first space suit Tony Stark designed in the comics back in 1981 (Iron Man #141), with the chest light taking the same pentagonal shape instead of the circles and triangles we’ve seen in the film armors thus far.

Continue to page 3 for the latest Guardians/Iron Man 3 rumor and another old hint…

–~~~~~~~~~~~~–

4. Kevin Feige’s Hint

In chatting with /Film leading up to the release of The Avengers, Kevin Feige talked about his love of exploring the cosmic side of the Marvel universe, hinting ever so slightly at the possibility of Iron Man in space before Guardians of the Galaxy was even announced:

“I’ve always said that I love and would one day want to explore every aspect of the Marvel universe, with the street level heroes, the fantasy or cosmic with Thor, which really is a cosmic hero, period with Cap, magic some day with Social Supreme and some of those characters. But the Cosmic Universe is a big part of that and I love space movies… That will probably not be in another Iron Man movie, because it doesn’t make much sense. That will not be in another Captain [America] movie. Thor does inhabit a certain part of that world and there are other characters and other properties that we’ve talked a little bit about, but have announced anything yet that will really bare fruit in that arena.”

When Guardians was brought up next, Feige continued:

“That’s where a lot of that will really come to fruition and to me it’s okay and Avengers is the place to mash it all up, because that’s what Avengers is for and you can have Iron Man in outer space. How’s that going to affect him in Iron Man 3 or 4? Well the truth is that’s in there now. (Laughs) He’s seen some shit, but he’s also Tony Stark and can blow a lot of stuff off, so the story of Iron Man 3, as we’ve already talked about, is very insular and very Tony Stark centric as redefined by Shane Black. To me, Thor was a much bigger leap than Avengers. Thor was the one, ‘Are they going to buy this?’ ‘Norse mythology… Intergalactic traveling on beams of light… Are they going to buy it?’ They did and we constructed that whole movie to be about the intro to the worlds, a portal opening in space and aliens coming out seems frankly minor by comparison.”

Iron Man went to space in The Avengers. No big deal now, right?

5. The Scoop

According to Latino-Review and their trusted and proven sources – especially when it comes to Guardians of the Galaxy – Tony Stark will leave Earth’s orbit and “hook up”with the Guardians and that come time for the Guardians of the Galaxy film, Stark will also make a small appearance.

Guardians of the Galaxy represents the biggest risk for Marvel Studios to date. Introducing a big budget comic book space opera after the failure of Green Lantern and to do so with an entirely unknown-to-average-moviegoer cast of odd characters which includes a talking warrior raccoon would other be crazy, if it weren’t for the “Avengers Assemble” branding power behind it and the inter-connectivity to the other films. The single, ultimate way to mitigate that risk would be to insert the franchise’s biggest and most important star into it in some capacity.

Either way, expect an announcement this summer of Robert Downey Jr.’s contract extension with Marvel.

Do you buy the space-faring Iron Man possibility? It’s drastically different than the Ant-Man connection rumor.

Iron Man 3 releases May 3, 2013, Thor: The Dark World on November 8, 2013, Captain America: The Winter Soldier on April 4, 2014, Guardians of the Galaxy on August 1, 2014The Avengers 2 on May 1, 2015, Ant-Man on November 6, 2015, and Doctor Strange sometime after that.

Follow Rob on Twitter @rob_keyes for all your Marvel movie needs.

Sources: EW, /FilmFunko, Latino-Review, Marvel

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